The Brownbag Irregulars gathered for their inaugural meeting last Thursday to blind taste and consider a dozen wine selections from around the world. Tasters were all “in the biz,” and the event was held in a shady location of questionable repute better left unnamed here. There was no arm-twisting or sales pitches being given, just some good palates checking out some new wines. Festivities kicked off with the only two whites in the lineup.
Wine #1: Clean medium straw color, with nice bees wax/honeycomb, mineral and yellow apple on the nose, all of which echo and expand in the rich flavors; medium-full to full bodied, with good acids and length, and ever-so-slightly astringent on the finish. An excellent food wine, and one I took for something French, so I was quite surprised when it was de-bagged.
2007 Riverbench Santa Maria Valley Estate Chardonnay, approximately $25.49 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #2: Pale to medium straw color, with yellow apple, a hint of banana and subtle bees wax and lanolin on the nose, all of which follow through on the palate, gaining a good dose of mineral which sets the tone; more mineral emerges on the nose with just a little swirlatude. Medium-full bodied, with good balance and ample acids. I would have sworn that this was a southern Rhone, perhaps even a white Chateauneuf du Pape, so I was even more surprised than with the previous wine when the label was revealed.
2006 Riverbench Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay Bedrock, approximately $23.49 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
With the pale stuff out of the way, it was time to move on to the reds.
Wine #3: The slightly smoky ruby color gives an indication of the variety and the strawberry and cherry aromatics shaded with some smoke seems to bear that out; rich, fairly earthy smoky black cherry flavors gain subtle underbrush with a little air. Medium to medium-full bodied, with good balance and length, this is nice with or without food, and clearly New World Pinot Noir with subtle Burgundian undertones.
2006 Riverbench Santa Maria Valley Estate Pinot Noir, approximately $27.49 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #4: Clean ruby garnet color, and not terribly expressive on the nose during the short time I had to consider it, grudgingly giving some earthy, slightly sour black cherry and strawberry; rich and earthy in the mouth, with a solid core of smoky black cherry fruit. One taster uttered impressions of “roasted and meaty.” Good weight, balance and length here, and obviously another somewhat Burgundian New World Pinot Noir.
2007 Riverbench Santa Maria Valley Estate Pinot Noir Mesa, approximately $45.49 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Riverbench Vineyard and Winery is an interesting operation. The vineyard has been producing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir since 1973, but has only been producing wines under the Riverbench label since the 2006 vintage. The wines are crafted by veteran winemaker Chuck Ortman, who actually purchased Riverbench fruit for his Meridian label back in the day. I quite like all four of these wines, and would not hesitate to pour them for guests at Adams-Heritier and Associates.
Wine #5: Deep, dark color, with earthy black plum and berry on the nose, accented with a hint of underbrush; flavors echo and expand with some added dried cherry, being very dry. Full bodied, well structured and slightly astringent on the finish. A nice wine that screams Tuscan Sangiovese; give it some time the cellar or in a decanter.
2007 Giuliano Tiberi “Imbricci” DOCG Chianti Montalbano, approximately $14.00 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #6: Clean dark color, and not giving a lot on the nose; old wood and restrained, earthy black fruit flavors. Two tasters offered impressions of “chamomile tea” and “black tea” respectively. Full bodied, with good structure and by no means a bad wine, but to me, not that expressive and suffers in comparison to #5 in my not so humble opinion. For the record, this was one of the Top 3 wines of the tasting for more than a few of my colleagues, so there ya go. Seemed like an Italian something-or-another to me.
2007 Intenso della Marronaia Toscana Rosso IGT, 100% Sangiovese, approximately $19.99 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #7: Dark in color, with a slightly tarry nose; tar, mahogany and earthy black fruit flavors. Full bodied, well structured and fairly long on the finish, where it turns a bit astringent. I figured this to be Italian with at least some Sangiovese in it.
2006 Camporignano Toscana IGT, 70% Merlot, 30% Sangiovese, approximately $21.00 retail; not yet available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #8: Deep, dark color, with a reticent nose; earthy forest floor dominates the flavor profile, with a solid core of black fruit underneath. Full bodied and well structured, this could use some time in the cellar, or if you can’t wait, an hour or three in a decanter. I like the forest floor character of the wine, but had a difficult time drawing a bead on its place of origin.
2005 Chateau Cabannieux Graves, 50% Merlot. 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, approximately $16.99 retail; available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #9: Deep, dark color, turning pink at the rim; throws an attractive forest floor, mahogany and black fruit perfume that echoes and expands nicely on the palate with some added earthiness, making an appealing style statement. Full bodied, with excellent structure and nice length, turning slightly astringent on the finish, this wants food and/or time in the cellar, but is perhaps my favorite of the reds. Turns out that it’s New Wave Bordeaux, but damned if I don’t like it anyway!
2005 Chateau Domeyne Saint Estephe, 50% Merlot, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, approximately $33.99 retail; available in the Detroit market. Find this wine
Wine #10: Clean dark garnet in color, and offering pretty, if not overly effusive aromatics of cedar and blackberry that gain some cocoa/chocolate in the mouth; smooth and rich, full bodied, with just enough structure, this is immediately appealing, but will it age? I guess it doesn’t really have to, all things considered. Obviously New World and probably Californian, but hard to detect any varietal character with this one.
2007 Ehlers Estate Merlot St. Helena, approximately $29.00 and coming to the Detroit market in the Spring of 2010. Find this wine
Wine #11: Good, dark color, with a subtle nose of cedar, mahogany dark berry and plum, which follow through and gain some chocolate in the flavors; full bodied, with good structure, and while eminently drinkable now, I’d be interested in seeing how it evolves with a few years in the cellar. A very good wine for New World palates, and probably Californian, but again, hard to detect any varietal character here.
2007 Ehlers Estate “One Twenty Over Eighty” St. Helena, approximately $42.00 retail; available in the Detroit market. “One Twenty Over Eighty” is the optimum blood pressure level and playfully refers to Ehlers’ owners Jean and Sylvaine Leducq’s non-profit Leducq Foundation, dedicated to funding international cardiovascular research; the wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Find this wine
Wine #12: Deep, dark color, with deep, dark flavors and aromas of dark berry, currant and plum, shaded with some cocoa; smooth, voluptuous, rich and opulent, this coats the mouth. Deceptively well structured, this lingers on the palate nicely, and like the previous two, is clearly New World and probably Californian, though I was willing to concede that it could possibly be an Aussie. Hard not to appreciate, even if it’s not a style I normally favor.
2007 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Sauvignon “1886” St. Helena, approximately $91.00 and coming to the Detroit market in the Spring of 2010. Find this wine
Tasters all named their three favorite wines; mine were the 2006 Riverbench Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay Bedrock, the 2006 Camporionano Toscana IGT and the 2005 Chateau Domeyne Saint Estephe. All twelve of these wines are of good to very good quality, and if I liked some less than others, there wasn’t a dog in the bunch. There was a nice range of styles and only one selection that was really out of my price range. It’ll be interesting to see what this crew comes up with the next time we get together, so stay tuned for further reports.
Reporting from Day-twah,